Ahh, Jono. This is the first time we ever crossed paths – we met properly sometime later in 2010, I believe. I met the Parades guys not long after, and up until his relocation to Berlin I would see Jono around the traps quite a bit. He’s a wonderfully talented man, and someone that I am constantly inspired by. Anyway, I won’t go on too long about this one – I think my excitement is pretty reflective in the writing; as well as Jono’s non-chalance. We’d get a lot more comfortable as the years passed. He’ll have a new record out this year. That’s exciting. This is way back when the first one came out – what a time to be alive!
– DJY, April 2014
The contrasts that exist between music and its musician remain as glaring as ever. Take twenty-one year old Sydneysider Jonathan Boulet. Speaking over the phone on an early Friday afternoon, he is shy and somewhat reluctant in his answers – a tough egg to crack, if you will.
Listening to his debut self-titled album, however, we are treated to a display of bright, exuberant and boisterous confidence that slips through every aspect of the music itself. It’s the musical equivalent of a student doing their homework on the bus, handing it in just as the bell rings, and getting full marks. Boulet may be exceptionally late, but he just might have put together the best Australian debut album of 2009.
“I’ve been making music by myself for a long time,” he explains. “Whether it’s been more electronic or more heavy, it started by just playing around on a keyboard. After getting more recording equipment and developing a few more recording skills, it started directing towards what I’m doing now.”
Indeed, Jonathan has had his finger in a variety of different-tasting but equally delicious musical pies. Even for someone so young, he has managed to work his way through a variety of genres and subsequent gig circuits.
“With the [Sydney band] Parades guys,” he makes note, “we started out in a kind of post-punkish band.” The sound? “It was heavy music, but we didn’t really want to sound like everyone else. We’d turn up to gigs in board shorts when everyone else was in tight pants and fringes. We didn’t think we fit in, but somehow we did – it was really weird.”
After working his way through a variety of bands, Jonathan’s creativity has shifted to focus on music under his own name. The album, consisting of songs written over the years up to now, was recorded in Boulet’s garage – he wrote, played and recorded the entire thing on his own.
“I guess the record was free to make,” he comments sheepishly, “but all-up the gear I was using cost about $1500.
“I think independence does help – the whole studio thing is a part of the industry you could just bypass and get a better result,” he responds when questioned about how important his D.I.Y. ethics have been in getting his music out there. “Of course, if you were on a major label backing, you wouldn’t care – you’d have the massive studio and the dollars to afford it. But I think it’s better, doing it yourself – you have more control and you’re more satisfied with the end result.”
It might have taken a while to get the whole thing together, but Boulet’s 2009 certainly hasn’t been garage-bound for its entirety. You might have seen him playing with W.A. wunderkinds Tame Impala or Queensland joy-bringers The Middle East earlier this year, in addition to a handful of his own shows.
He enthuses that Tame Impala are “”just the nicest dudes ever”. “We’d all be happy to play the shows and encourage each other,” he said, before laughing and adding: “We tried to get one of the guys to stage-dive, but they sadly never took the bait.”
He also shares a surreal experience backstage at Sydney University’s Manning Bar, opening for The Middle East. “Before they went on, they went downstairs to do their vocal warm-up. They started singing [Backstreet Boys hit] Backstreet’s Back – and they were doing it in perfect five-part harmony! It was sort of beautiful because it was ringing all the way up the stairs and back down again – it was just amazing.”
If it wasn’t in the live arena, perhaps YouTube may have guided you to the breathtaking video made for Jonathan’s brilliant lead single, A Community Service Announcement. The colourful video was filmed over in New Zealand, an experience Jonathan describes as “amazing – I couldn’t believe how different it was, two hundred metres from where we were standing!”
If this experience wasn’t great enough, imagine finding out that Kanye West was not only happy for you and would let you finish, but also thought you had one of the best videos of all time? West linked the video on his blog, Kanye Universe City, with the all-caps headline “WATCH THIS VIDEO, IT’S FUCKING AMAZING”.
“Yeah, it’s pretty cool,” Jonathan coolly comments in what could be the understatement of the year. “There’s not much more you can say about that. It’s funny, though, how some people don’t care until someone says they should. But, yeah…It’s cool, I’m happy – and the Special Problems guys [who created and directed the video] are getting some exposure out of it.”
Is Jonathan Boulet nervous? Overwhelmed, perhaps? Or just shy? Whatever personality traits he shows, don’t worry about it for a second – once the music of this baby-faced pop whiz graces your ears, not a great deal else is going to matter.